Thursday, May 7, 2009
Today my baby turned one! Part of me is thinking, "Thank God I'm done with that year!". But the other part of me feels an eensy bit sad that this is the end of the baby era. Not too sad though, considering that my third child was by far my worst sleeper and I happen to be rather fond of sleep.
We've always thrown big parties for our kids. Lots of friends, lots of food. Time-intensive (but ever popular) Filipino Lumpia, smoked ribs. A pinata and cake. But if you know me at all, you'd know that secretly I hate throwing parties. Don't get me wrong, I love having people over for dinner which is not that same thing as throwing a party. Parties stress me out...will anyone show up? will the food be done? will the food be good? It seems I never have time to do my hair on party day, so every picture of me is with some sort of ponytail or bun, looking stressed and maybe even a little sweaty!
So I begged to have a small party this time. The poor third child does get a little bit of the short stick. No birth announcement, no hand-made first birthday invitation, no horde of well-wishers. But lots of love and savory affection knowing she's the baby forever.
When Julie Jams is your mama, you know it's going to be as homemade as possible. And so I set about to make a sponge cake from The Art of Fine Baking by Paula Peck (who studied under James Beard, no less!). I've made some scrumptious tarts from her book before. She has really detailed information on all things "baked".
Old-fashioned Sponge Cake requires the separation of eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla, and in this case lemon zest and juice. I separated the six eggs, whipping the whites with a little salt until they formed soft peaks. Then the cup of sugar was added tablespoon by tablespoon until those whites were stiff and shiny. Perfect for making a light spongy cake.
The zest and lemon juice were added to the egg yolks along with the teaspoon of vanilla. This mixture was poured on top of the whites. Then I sprinkled on the cup of flour. I folded the mixture gently by hand, making sure not to overmix (the deadly sin of sponge cake!).
There were two options for baking...a tall 9 inch tube pan or two 9 inch layer cake pans. I opted for the layer cake pans, envisioning a fluffy white birthday cake. I was planning on using my grandma's No-Cook Marshmallow Frosting to finish it off. The batter split evenly between the greased pans, it went into the oven for 35 minutes.
And did they turn out perfectly? Of course not. Because I am a baking amateur. No matter how carefully I follow directions, my baking has a tendency to flop, terribly in this cake. Why didn't those cakes rise up a bit? They climbed the sides of the pan, as indicated in the recipe, but nowhere else. They looked terrible, like a big crater. Maybe they'd be better once I stacked them, I naively thought.
Oh, wow, now it was a lot worse...the crater appeared even larger! It would have taken like 4 inches of whipped cream to fill in that hole. Wah, wah, wah (think "Debbie Downer")...
Okay, Plan B...Strawberry Genoise Cake from Hoffman's Fine Pastries in Kirkland. So maybe the party will be a bit smaller and the food less extravegant, but she'll never say we didn't splurge on the cake! Twenty-seven dollars and 25 cents later, I had the beautiful cake in hand, even personalized for my special little girl. Love you, Pensee Lulu, baby bubbers. Happy Birthday Sweet Pea!
Okay the party is all over now and the big question of whether she would eat the cake or not has been answered. Yes, she took bite after bite, shoveling handfuls into her mouth. She ate whole thing. Wow!